Welcome to the Profit of Education website. Continuing the conversation begun in the book Profit of Education, we discuss the latest economic evidence on education reform.

Teacher skills: math versus verbal

Patrick Walsh has taken data from Baccalaureate and Beyond to look at math versus verbal skills for teachers versus nonteachers. Next time I’ll talk about his results on how the teacher/nonteacher salary gap is different for people really good at math as compared to the gap for people with really good verbal skills. Today I just want to share Walsh’s picture documenting that the skill gap exists.


The top panel shows the distribution of verbal skills according to the SAT for teachers versus nonteachers. Teachers have lower SAT scores, but the difference isn’t enormous. The bottom panel illustrates that the math gap is larger. Note the big difference starting roughly around 600 on the math SAT.

Part of what’s happening is that teachers with really good math skills are more likely to be tempted away from teaching than are teachers with really good verbal skills. (Think the big math gap explains some of the difficulty we have preparing American students for science and technology fields maybe?) Here’s a little table based on Walsh’s numbers

Nonteacher-teacher SAT gap
4 years post graduation 10 years post graduation
verbal 31 38
math 41 57

Between 4 years and 10 years out, the verbal SAT gap jumps 10 points. But the math gap jumps 19.

Next time, some evidence from Walsh that it’s the salary gap that causes the difference.

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